Check out the courses we offer
Knowledge Base » Safeguarding » What Types of Abuse can Children Experience?

What Types of Abuse can Children Experience?

Last updated on 20th December 2023

There are more than one types of abuse that children can suffer and it is important to know the signs, symptoms and behaviour that will give indications when a child is being abused. Knowing what these are will help to put a stop to that abuse quicker.

People who work around children have a duty of care to safeguard them from any abuse and protect children who are vulnerable.

What is the definition of abuse?

Abuse is defined as “Persistently treating someone with cruelty or violence in one or more ways especially regularly or repeatedly.” Recent findings by the NSPCC shows that there has been an increase in police-recorded child abuse offences across the UK and an increase in the number of children on the child protection register.

There are 8 types of abuse, in this blog we will look at what they are and what the signs, symptoms and behaviours of sufferers may be.


Neglect means that a child’s basic needs are failing to be met continuously, there are 4 types of neglect:

  • Physical Neglect – A child won’t be fed, washed, clothed or sheltered properly, it can also mean that they aren’t being kept safe and supervised and that they could end up in physical danger. They may turn up  to places dressed inappropriate for the weather, as well as being constantly hungry.
  • Educational neglect – A parent won’t care about their child’s education, which could mean that the child never goes to school, or ends up missing so much school that they haven’t learnt anything.
  • Emotional neglect – This means that the child isn’t getting the nurture they need, they could be getting ignored at home, intimidated by family members, as well as humiliated. This can result in the child getting isolated and extremely lonely.
  • Medical neglect – A child could end up seriously poorly if they don’t receive the proper medical care they need, or their parents don’t give them the medication that they need.
Neglected little girl

Physical abuse

If a child suffers physical abuse they will receive physical injuries that have been done on purpose, as well as feeling intimidated.

This includes slapping, punching, shaking, throwing, burning, scratching, biting and restraining.

The signs and symptoms are:

  • Multiple bruises, either all over the body or in one certain part.
  • Fractures and dislocations.
  • Scratches and cuts.
  • Bald patches on the scalp, where hair has been pulled out.
  • Bruised eyes.
  • Scalds or burns on the body.
  • The child seeming withdrawn from everyone, as well as mood changes.

Did you know according to Napac 1 in 8 children who are sexually abused are known to the police and children’s services.

Emotional abuse

This is the threats or actions said and done by an adult, with intention to cause mental harm, physical harm, humiliation and isolation of the child

The signs and symptoms include:

  • The child having lack of confidence.
  • Sever anxiety.
  • Aggression towards others.
  • Disturbed sleep patterns.
  • Being overly affectionate to strangers (usually in toddlers).
  • Constant tearfulness and struggling to control their emotions.
  • Having difficulty in maintain relationships, as well as having difficulty making relationships.
  • Seeming isolated from their parents.
  • Lacking in social skills.

Sexual abuse

This is the forcing of undesired sexual behaviour by one person to another, this can be direct abuse, such as rape or sexual touching or making someone watch videos of sexual nature

The signs and symptoms are:

  • Bruises around the genital area or thighs.
  • Bite marks and scratches.
  • Sexually transmitted infections, that reoccur often.
  • Blood in underwear.
  • Abdominal pain with no apparent cause.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Refusal to undress in front of others.
  • Inappropriate sexual behaviour.
  • Self-harming.
  • Abusing alcohol and drugs.
Young girl suffering a type of abuse at home


This is the repeated verbal, physical, social or psychological aggressive behaviour that can be caused by one person, or a group of people to a less powerful person or group of people.

The signs and symptoms include:

  • Withdrawal.
  • Reluctance to be with certain individuals.
  • Unexplained injuries.
  • Loss of valuables.
  • Aggressive towards others.
  • Being afraid to voice opinion.
  • Lowering of confidence and self esteem.
  • Tearfulness.

Bullying can occur by other children, or by adults.

Modern slavery

This type of abuse includes slavery, sex trafficking and forced labour.

The signs and symptoms include:

  • Signs of physical and emotional abuse.
  • Rarely allowed to travel alone.
  • Appearing to be under the control of someone else.
  • Few or no personal belongings.
  • Hesitation when speaking with strangers.
  • Not being registered with a school or a GP practice.
  • Reluctant or can’t share personal information or where they live.
  • Orphaned or living apart from their family.
Woman suffering a type of abuse

Discriminatory abuse

This occurs when individuals are not treated equally in line with legislation, their values, beliefs and cultures are ignored.

Signs and symptoms are:

  • Poor care and support that does not meet the individual’s needs.
  • Verbal abuse.
  • Disrespect towards the individual.
  • Exclusion from activities and services.

Fabricated or induced illness

This form of child abuse is quite rare, however it is still serious, it occurs when a parent or carer (often it is most likely the child’s biological mother) exaggerates or deliberately causes the symptoms of illness in the child.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • The child’s parent/s attempting to persuade healthcare professionals that their child is ill when it is evident that they are perfectly healthy.
  • Lying or exaggerating symptom’s.
  • Manipulating test results – such as putting sugar into the child’s urine test to suggest that they have diabetes.
  • Deliberately inducing symptoms, such as poisoning a child.
Upset little girl sat on the floor after suffering a type of abuse

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

FGM is the partial or total removal of female genitalia, through cutting, injuring or changing when there is no medical reason to do so.

It is usually carried out on young girls between infancy and the age of 15, most commonly before the onset of puberty. It is illegal in the UK.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Difficulties with urination.
  • Constant pain.
  • Incontinence.
  • Frequent vaginal, pelvic or urinary infections.
  • Menstrual problems.
  • Discomfort when sitting or standing.
  • Appearing anxious and depressed.
  • Reluctant to undergo medical examinations.
  • Unusual absence from school or college.

Breast Ironing

Breast Ironing is bringing girls breasts into contact with hard or heated objects, to suppress or reverse the growth of breasts by destroying the tissue (CPS)

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Difficulty in lifting arms as the breast area will be tender.
  • Walking hunched over.
  • Being withdrawn from activities.

Child abuse statistics

  • Over 27,000 children were identified as needing protection from neglect in 2017.
  • Around 1 in 5 children have been exposed to domestic abuse.
  • 1 in 20 children in the UK have experienced sexual abuse.
  • 1 in 14 children have been physically abused.
  • 1 in 4 victims of modern slavery are children.
Safeguarding Children Level 3 Course

Safeguarding Children Level 3 (Designated Officer course)

Just £49

Study online and gain a full CPD certificate posted out to you the very next working day.

Take a look at this course

About the author

Eve Johnson

Eve Johnson

Eve has worked at CPD from the start, she organises the course and blog production, as well as supporting students with any problems they may have and helping them choose the correct courses. Eve is also studying for her Business Administration Level 3 qualification. Outside of work Eve likes to buy anything with flamingos on it, catching up with friends, spending time with her family and occasionally going to the gym!

Similar posts